Reviewing the literature

Before you develop your research questions, it is important to understand what is already known about your topic. Conducting a literature review will help you learn about past research, gaps in knowledge, and ongoing debates related to your topic. The following resources provide guidance for reviewing scientific literature from research databases, academic journals, discussion papers and reports, and other formats.



Academic research databases

Academic research databases, or literature databases, provide an organized set of published journal articles and other content. Some databases are available to anyone, while others require a subscription, which may be available through your institution or organization. Some key research databases for ANH research include:  

  • AgEcon Search: A database of journal articles, conference papers, and working papers in agricultural economics
  • AGRIS: A database of scientific literature about food and agriculture from around the world in over 90 languages.
  • Google Scholar: A Google tool for searching published literature
  • PubMed: A database of journal articles related to nutrition and health
  • Web of Science: A citation database of wide coverage of science-related journals around the world, including open access journals

SCANR tip: Come up with a set of keywords related to your topic or research question to narrow your search in a research database.

SCANR tip: Start by reading highly cited reviews or meta-analyses related to your topic. Meta-analyses are studies that systematically combine the findings of multiple studies on the same topic; they are a rigorous way to summarize the results of many studies.



Peer-reviewed journals

Peer-reviewed journals, also called academic or scholarly journals, publish research that has been reviewed and approved by other experts in the field. Some journals are available for anyone to access (open access), while others require a subscription, which may be available through your institution or organization. Some key journals for ANH research include:

  • Agricultural Economics: The journal of the International Association of Agricultural Economists publishes research results and policy analyses covering the economics of agriculture including food consumption and nutrition to land use and the environment.
  • Agriculture & Food Security: An open access journal that publishes articles on food security research, with a particular focus on sustainable agriculture and food systems to address local, regional, national and/or global food and nutritional insecurity.
  • Food Policy: A multidisciplinary journal that publishes research on issues in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of policies for the food sector in developing, transition, and advanced economies with a social and economic aspect of food policy.
  • Food Security: A journal that is focused on challenges of global food security through addressing physical, biological and socio-economic constraints in food production and healthy diet.
  • Global Food Security: An international journal dedicated to global food needs, sustainability, nutrition, and socio-political matters.  
  • Maternal & Child Nutrition: A journal on nutrition outcome in women and children across life stage from a global perspective.
  • Nature Food: A journal that publishes research on global food challenges and possible solutions to optimize and secure food systems with a multi-disciplinary perspective.  
  • World Development: A journal devoted for promotion of world development, it publishes articles on poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, disease, lack of shelter, environmental degradation, inadequate scientific and technological resources, trade and payments imbalances, international debt, gender and ethnic discrimination, militarism and civil conflict, and lack of popular participation in economic and political life.
  • The Lancet: A medical journal that publishes research articles related to nutrition and health, food systems, and sustainability.

SCANR tip: One way to check whether a journal or paper is reputable is through its impact factor. Impact factor is an index that indicates the importance and prestige of the journal through calculating number of times a paper or journal is cited in a year.



Discussion papers and reports

Another way to explore current research is by reading reports, discussion papers, and white papers published by organizations and research institutes. Though these publications are often not peer-reviewed, they can provide important and high-quality research findings. Some organizations that publish their own research related to ANH include:

  • FAO: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations produces several major reports related to food, agriculture, fisheries, and environment each year.
  • HLPE: The High Level Panel Experts on Food Security and Nutrition Reports are on food security and nutrition asses and analyze the current state of food security and nutrition and promotes policies that reduce food insecurity. 
  • IFPRI: The International Food Policy Research Institute published discussion papers and reports related to agriculture, nutrition, climate, health, food systems, poverty, and governance.
  • WRI: The World Resources Institute’s food program works toward advancing solutions to ensure feeding the world in a sustainable and poverty-free way. WRI produces reports annually.  

SCANR tip: Checking out the references used in an article, discussion paper, or report can also jump start your literature reviews. In most academic research databases, you can view the articles cited in and by a published work.



Blogs and other media

Following the blogs of organizations and researchers in the field is a great way to stay connected and get the most up to date research in the field. Blogs provide a concise, efficient platform to learn about new and ongoing research. Most blogs are available to anyone online and are written in simpler, jargon-free language, so they may help you to access and understand complicated topics or articles that require subscription access.

Blogs of interest to ANH researchers may include:

  • ANH Academy Blog: A blog that highlights research, policy, and events related to agriculture, food systems, nutrition, and health
  • Development Impact: A World Bank blog focused on news, methods, and insights about impact evaluation
  • Economics for Food and Nutrition Policy: A teaching blog written by Dr. William Masters
  • Food Systems Idea Exchange: A blog that showcases food systems research curated by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health
  • Gender-Nutrition Idea Exchange: A blog that showcases research on connections between agriculture, nutrition, health, and gender curated by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health
  • IFPRI Blogs: A set of blogs from the International Food Policy Research Institute focused on research and issues in international development
  • Food Politics: A blog written by Dr. Marion Nestle
  • Marc. F Bellemare: A blog focused on agricultural and applied economics written by Dr. Marc Bellemare
  • Planetary Health Alliance Blog: A blog curated by the Planetary Health Alliance
  • State of the Planet: A blog curated by the Columbia University Earth Institute
  • The Food Archive: A blog about food and nutrition science, politics, and culture
  • U.S. Food Policy: A public policy focused blog written by Dr. Parke Wilde

Other media formats, such as podcasts, can also help you to learn about past and ongoing research on your topic. Podcasts of interest to ANH researchers may include:

  • Center for Global Development: This center focuses on economic research and policy solutions that are important for global development. They publish podcasts, blogs, and other publications; look at their topic areas, including Food and Agriculture and Food Security.
  • Feed: This food systems podcast developed by Table focuses on ongoing debates about food systems.
  • In Conversation With: In this podcast, Lancet editors and authors discussing the latest research on people’s health, health care, and health policy. 
  • Laying Down Tracks: This podcast was developed by the UN Food Systems Summit and Sourcing Matters to discuss topics related to hunger, malnutrition, climate change, and more.  
  • Research Talks with IFPRI: This podcast developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute highlights the process and results of research projects, narrated by IFPRI researchers.  
  • Target: Zero Hunger: This podcast developed by FAO focuses on topics related to global food security, including perspectives from farmers, development experts, and decision-makers around the world.
  • The Lancet Voice: This podcast explores perspectives on global health, policy, and clinical research.
  • The Leading Voices in Food: This podcast from the Duke SanFord World Food Policy Center explores a variety of topics related to agriculture and food systems.

SCANR tip: Another great way to stay updated on current research is to follow Twitter or LinkedIn accounts and hashtags of key organizations and people. Remember, connecting with other researchers is a good way to spark friendship and collaboration.

Login or Join ANH Academy to be part of the conversation